My Vote Didn’t Count

A South Florida man wanted his voice to be heard when he voted in a recent election, but he says afterwards the city told him his vote didn’t count, which is why he’s calling Help Me Howard. Here’s 7’s Patrick Fraser.

WSVN — When I read Brian Chappell’s e-mail to Help Me Howard, I was impressed at how well it was written. When we met Brian, it made sense.

Brian Chappell: “I’m an English teacher. It’s that simple, it’s that simple.”

A big man with a deep voice, who says he never raises it in a classroom.

Brian Chappell: “If you raise your voice, in three or four days their voice are higher, your voice is high, you go home tired. But if I’m talking at the same rate, they have to be quiet to hear what I have to say. Works very well.”

Brian takes teaching his high school students seriously, and he takes voting in elections seriously as well.

Brian Chappell: “It’s important, because I think you need to exercise your right and make your voice heard.”

Brian brought up his right to vote because earlier this year, Miami Gardens residents were asked to approve a $60 million bond issue. The only way you could vote was a mail-in ballot.

Brian Chappell: “I completed the information, made sure I signed it, because you must sign the outside of the envelope before sending it in.”

The bond issue was approved. Next….

Brian Chappell: “I got a letter from the supervisor of elections saying that after they evaluated the ballot, my signature didn’t match that one they had on file, so they discarded it. My vote did not count.”

Brian registered to vote when he was 18, and has voted at the polls in every election. He says he has never mailed in his vote.

Brian Chappell: “I don’t know what signature they are talking about, because I did not fill out an absentee ballot request, so I would not have a signature on file.”

And being told his ballot was thrown out really bothers him.

Brian Chappell: “It makes me feel like my vote was stolen, and I was perturbed, I was angry.”

Well, Howard, if a city decides to hold a mail-in election, if they decide your ballot doesn’t count, do you have a right to be notified to make sure your vote counts?

Howard Finkelstein: “Mail-in elections are usually used for bond votes and cannot be used if a candidate is on the ballot. But according to a law passed in Florida a few years ago, if your signature doesn’t match what they have on file, you have no right to be notified, no right to contest it, and your vote will not count.”

Christina White, the Miami-Dade Elections spokesperson, told us two judges and a trained elections department employee determined if a signature on the ballot matched the voter’s signature on file.

This is the signature the county had from 2006 on file from Brian. These are examples of his more current signature. The canvassing board concluded they did not match and tossed out Brian’s ballot.

By the way, 9491 ballots were mailed in; 8520 were tabulated and accepted. More than 10 percent, 971 were thrown out because the canvassing board concluded they did not match.

The advice from the elections office: Update your signature that is on file.

Brian Chappell: “Very confusing, very confusing. Ultimately there is nothing that I could have done to get my vote counted.”

Having his ballot tossed out did not affect the election. The bond issue won easily, and on the bright side, Brian says, it was a small, one-issue vote.

Brian Chappell: “This particular election was not one that counted for the midterm or the governor or mayor. It was one single item issue, and luckily, if you are going to have a problem like this, this is the kind of election you want to have a problem on, because it does not count on a lot of other levels.”

Update your signature in case you want to mail in a ballot or you vote in a mail-in election. Big elections are coming up, so it’s not a bad time to do it. In Miami-Dade, just fill out the voter application form and sign it. The link to that form is at the end of this Help Me Howard story. In Broward, they told me to just mail in any piece of paper with your signature, and that will be enough, though you might want to write that it’s for updating your signature on file.

Facing a problem you have elected to give up on? Don’t cast it aside. Sign up with us. If there were polls, they would show we won’t mail in the effort, cause we’ll match you with a solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Miami-Dade County voter application form
http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/Library/webappform.pdf

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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